Inquiry sparks new child abuse claims in British town

LONDON (AFP) - Twelve new alleged victims of child sexual abuse have come forward following a report last week detailing horrific crimes against at least 1,400 young people in a northern English town, police said onTuesday.

Chief Constable David Crompton of the South Yorkshire police, whose force covers the town of Rotherham, promised to act on the new claims and said the report was a "huge wake-up call".

The results of an inquiry published last week detailed the gang rape, kidnapping and trafficking of girls as young as 11 in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, and the failure of the authorities to respond to the problem.

Written by an expert in social services, Alexis Jay, it said the majority of the alleged abusers were described as "Asian" by victims, but said local officials had described "nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought of as racist".

Responding to the report in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Home Secretary Theresa May said it made for "shocking reading" and said it was a "terrible account of the appalling failures" of local authorities.

"It was a complete dereliction of duty," she said.

The report said 1,400 was a "conservative estimate" for the number of victims, and police chief Crompton said his force was currently conducting nine "multiple victim, multiple offender" investigations, two of them in Rotherham.

Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, he said police had improved their handling of child sexual abuse complaints, noting the force now has 62 officers dedicated to such crimes, compared to three in 2010.

"We are acting, but nobody is complacent. This is a huge wake-up call," said Crompton, who took up his post in 2012. "We have got a very comprehensive plan moving forward, and even though we have put additional resources into this, we may be putting in more resources, given that we have got even more allegations coming forward."

The opposition Labour party on Tuesday suspended four party members who had positions of authority on Rotherham local council at the time of the abuse, pending an investigation.

The Jay report followed the conviction of five men in 2010 for grooming teenage girls in Rotherham for sex.

Similar cases of widespread sexual abuse of children - sometimes by organised gangs - have been revealed in recent years in the cities of Derby, Oxford and Rochdale.